Case Studies

Ute and Richard

After the programme, two German alumni propelled to start an innovative agency connecting people and ideas

For more than a decade, Richard and I have talked about starting an enterprise together. We come from different background, personally and professionally, but we share common values and goals. This year, after we both completed the Common Purpose programme, we finally took the leap and started a communications agency called Developing Debates.

I don't know if Richard and I would have gone from talking about starting this company to actually doing it without Common Purpose.

What appealed to me most when I first heard about Common Purpose was the similar approach to what I followed throughout my career as a journalist and communications expert – Creating spaces for open and meaningful conversations on how to change societies for the better. The programme offered new insights, especially into the corporate world, which until then was almost unknown territory to me.

Developing Debates is a creative and innovative agency. We design and facilitate gatherings that promote exchange, enable development and stimulate change. This includes events, workshops, consulting and training. In our concepts, we combine approaches that connect people with ideas and ideas with people.

When we started working together in 2008, Richard was working as a political advisor at the KfW, one of the world's leading promotional banks. At the time, I was Head of Communications for one of Germany’s governmental development organizations. We started organizing and hosting a networking event in Bonn that to this day brings together people from different national and local government bodies, civil society organizations and science. We both have moved on professionally since initiating the event, but it is still one of the main exchange platforms for Bonn's international cooperation community.

With our experience organizing the event, it reinforced our belief that mixing and matching people from diverse backgrounds is the key to better solutions, no matter which problem you are trying to solve. 

One of my biggest take-away from Common Purpose is this – Just do it. Go with your gut and follow your aspirations.

And so we did.


Ute Lange is a journalist for international affairs and has worked for the Berlin Tagesspiegel, the Washington Post and German Armed Forces media. For more than a decade she headed the communications departments of German governmental development cooperation organizations. Today she is a self-employed moderator and trainer.

Richard Kortmann works as a Senior Policy Advisor in the Corporate Management division at DEG. He holds a Master's degree in Politics, Law and Business Finance and has extensive experience as a political lobbyist.